you are the cure

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poetry / Rumi / spirituality

What if today was the day that you stopped seeing yourself as the source of all your trouble or anyone else’s, for that fact?

What if instead you saw yourself as the source of all your solutions to come?  Maybe even solutions that are already present just waiting to be noticed?

What might shift inside you?

Seriously?

I’ve said it before (and I’ll say it again I’m sure), you’ve already given the blaming yourself for absolutely everything in the history of everything a solid-go for a good many years. Maybe that approach doesn’t work? Maybe?

You know it doesn’t.

Here’s the thing, we reinforce this sort of thinking for ourselves and others when we believe that life is meant to be lived in a perfectly straight line. Oh sure, we allow children to make mistakes but we pretty much expect everyone else to have all of that worked out of their system by the age of 20. And that’s us being gracious!  😉

There is no expiration date on making mistakes. The privilege of living is another day to mess it all up.  And another day to put it to rights.

Okay, okay. I know. That’s not comforting to everyone. I get it. Nonetheless, I submit for your consideration the following: comforting or not, does it accurately describe reality? Is it a true statement that has the audacity not to conform to our opinion of it? (gasp!)

Anytime we fight truth, we’re swimming upstream. Unless you’re a salmon (doubtful), I’m guessing you’re not that good at swimming upstream. Heck, even a salmon won’t be coming back this way after all that upstreaming.  So, why do it? Why not find a way to turn downstream and flow?

At any given moment we contain the potential to choose swimming in either direction. It’s not actually a requirement that we choose the difficult path. It’s not. (no, I’m sticking with that.  it’s not.)  We get a lot of talk in this American society in particular that everything must be hard. Must it? I know we make everything hard, but does it really have to be hard? Says who? Who said it first?  And why?  Always look at the why, friends. Always look at the why.

Let’s think about all of that for a minute. Who do you personally have to thank for this idea that you must struggle? Likely it is more than one person or institution, but see if you can come up with at least one source. Take a minute to consider where they might have learned it. Who told them?  How far back can you go? Where were these people from? What year was it? What was life like at that time? How was the “economy” doing? Were these people in power or the outsiders? I almost guarantee there are some answers for us there, if we’re brave enough to look.

There are those even that believe that we carry all of these stories in our DNA. I’m not sure where I fall on that just yet, but I am open to the idea. We certainly carry a lot in our DNA that we know exists yet we do not fully understand. Even if it’s not in our double-helix, these stories have become part of our identity. How long are we going to capitulate to our shadow voices, our own and that of others? We’ve learned to see ourselves as the trouble, the unrelenting fountainhead of all of our suffering.

Well, the truth is we are. However, we’re also the cure. Which one do we wrap ourselves in and run up the flagpole? Mostly the negative aspects, the pain, the shadow.  We begin to believe that is who we are.  That only keeps us locked there. We end up in this dance of seeing ourselves as the problem reaching for the solution.  What if we are the solution, experiencing the problem so that we can become fully manifest as that solution? Eventually we may serve as guides to others in similar predicaments, becoming not only our own solution but helping others to become theirs.

Admit it, someone who has never struggled with a particular situation you are facing is not usually an inspiration so much as a yardstick against which you judge yourself.  Then you meet someone who says, “Oh, you too?!” It almost always plays-out that way when we get around to being honest about our challenges.  The earth shifts beneath your feet, the air hangs still for just a moment, and the light dawns…

Okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic (or sometimes it is), but you get the idea.

We experience trouble. We are the cure.

You’ll figure it all out. You will. Relax into it.

“You suppose you are the trouble,
But you are the cure
You suppose that you are the lock on the door,
But you are the key that opens it.
It’s too bad that you want to be someone else
You don’t see your own face, your own beauty
Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours.”

Rumi knows.  And he knew that you would know.  When will you know that you know?

Be the cure.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Jean-michel Feinen/Dreamstime

 

carry your own bags

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poetry / Rumi / Uncategorized

“If people misunderstand you, do not worry…

It is your voice that they hear, but it is their own thoughts that go through their head.”

I have had so many run-ins with this very concept in recent months. If I were not secure in the knowledge that I am responsible for myself alone, then I might have interpreted these encounters as messages to pipe-down.

I went through a particularly rough period for about three years where I received near-constant push-back on the things I said and frankly was required to say. I don’t mean required in a “I just *have* to say this” sort of way. It was my job to say them. Everyone knew it was my job. Everyone knew all the different entities to which I was accountable if I did not say them. And still with the pushback. (i’m not bitter!)

It. Was. Exhausting.

I had never experienced anything like that before and I’m not itching to repeat it ever again.

I remember having talks with myself during this time along the lines of trying to figure out a different way to say things that perhaps they would be better received by others. All this served to do was to give birth to a good deal of internal neuroses and lack of trust in my own ability. Additionally, it fueled others’ lack of responsibility for their own part in things.  Never helpful!

Then I started to notice something. I was working with two different groups at the same time. Let’s call Group A the Sharks. And just for originality’s sake, let’s call Group B the Jets. The Sharks struggled constantly with what I was saying and pushed back on a regular basis. The Jets did too, but only at first. They were largely following the lead of the Sharks. Mercifully, not for long. As I started building relationships with both groups, the Jets warmed-up and started to see not just the measure of my words, but the worth of them. They could see past the unfamiliar and at times unwelcome information to my intent. They recognized relatively quickly that I truly did have everyone’s safety as my primary motivator, regardless of where these rules initiated.

The process was much, much slower with the Sharks. Glacial even, with certain individuals. Even now, there is a concept that I still find myself having to explain over and over again with one person in particular. That is a trying position to find oneself in repeatedly no matter how patient a person you are. I have certainly never claimed to be an exceedingly patient person.

I started to examine these disparate interactions and reactions to explore why I was having two different experiences around the same topics. It was especially mystifying when you consider that the Jets were more directly impacted by the rules and expectations than the Sharks. I tried to look at my delivery, my mood, my word choice, you name it. Nothing was off the table as a possible explanation.  Surely, some days, those were indeed factors.

I think it is really important to examine one’s own contributions to any exchange, no matter what. Nothing will change my perspective on that. In some cases, there truly is a better way to have said something.

But not always.

I decided to try shifting my focus outside of my self and examine the more obvious reactions of each group and its members.

With the Jets who responded well to me, I was just a new person in a role that was mostly familiar to them.  The execution had changed a bit, but did not exceed the scope of what the position was intended to do. So, *I* was a new person, but the relationship structure and boundaries were not new. The Jets rolled with it basically because it wasn’t wildly unfamiliar territory for them.

With the Sharks group, it was different. I was a new person, yes, but the role I assumed with them had also changed, or at least how it played-out in their midst had changed. I now had authority over some of their most crucial decisions. My predecessor had never had the benefit nor the burden of that.

(side note: my predecessor was nothing but a light of graciousness in the middle of all of this. i am forever grateful to her for that. she could commit murder and I’d still think she was the bee’s knees. big love!)

The Jets did not lose any power when I came on the scene. The Sharks did.

The blame for this loss of power did not belong to any of us that were actually involved in the every day dealings. Other people were behind this decision and we were just players in their drama. (and boy do I mean drama!)

So, the point of this story is to illustrate that communication problems can arise not because of the individuals or even groups in the story, but more due to the circumstances that surround them. Those circumstances often pre-date us and our roles. They involve tales that people begin inside their heads and then repeat them to others who take those stories as fact. It happens all of the time, everywhere. We’ve all been a part of these stories at one time or another.

No matter how I chose to approach things, the Sharks could only hear it through a filter of disempowerment. I could have had the greatest idea in the history of great ideas and they would not have liked it one bit. It’s easy to blame them and say that they could have been more mature about it. They could have. That’s true. It’s also true that I could have been more compassionate for where they found themselves. That is not how things went down. At least not until I started to take a step back and look at things as an observer, instead of one of the participants.

With the passage of time, I am grateful for the experience now. It is important to have those encounters where all of our genuine, well-intended efforts avail to nothing. That is when we learn. We rarely learn by things going according to plan and people being nice to us. This experience taught me to look deeper for what’s underneath a person’s actions and reactions.

Context matters. It could have saved us all a lot of heartache if I had been given a wider perspective beforehand on what had happened from both sides of the issue. I was getting information from mostly one side, and it was not accurate or kind.

Major clue: when someone gives you information about another person or group and it is couched in unkindness, you can bet they are not telling an objective version of events. I’m talking about when people are just plain being mean about other people, saying things that do not even need to be said and ultimately account for nothing. I promise you that you can disregard every word they speak about that person or group. Promise.

So, did things change? Eventually, yes. Taking that step back and being an observer made all of the difference. I decided to stop playing my “part” in the drama. I had to get back in touch with who I am and stop believing the story that others had told to me about myself and also about themselves and others. The fallout of this was that I became free to be myself. Why does that matter? Because it enabled me to relax. Why does that matter? Once I relaxed and no longer believed the stories, I was able to meet each person on newer, better footing. They didn’t adjust right away because I was no longer part of the story. Eventually, they responded to it and started relating to me in a healthier way. It was not easy, but it worked, not because I adopted some new-fangled, trendy approach. It worked because I simply accessed what was natural to me. Our greatest strengths usually lie in what comes naturally to us.

Like I said, it is very important to first examine one’s own actions and words in all situations. By all means, always, always, always start there. Once you’ve made a sincere effort with that, and you come up with nothing or at least nothing significant, it might be time to look outside of yourself. Sometimes things really are coming from across the table.

If what you have said is not untrue and it is not intended to be unkind and did not involve any name-calling…well, you have done all you can do.

Here’s where it gets dicey though… People don’t always understand that someone who speaks in a direct manner is not being unkind. Direct people, especially direct women, get a lot of messages about “softening” what they say. Indirect people are rarely challenged on their communication style when it too causes long-lasting negative relationship dynamics. Yes, I have a bias, but I have seen way more relationships unravel due to indirect communication than direct communication.

No one is out here trying to be an a$$hole just by telling the truth. That’s not an a$$hole. Sure, the truth hurts sometimes, but that is a characteristic of truth, not a motive of the one who dared to speak it. What if we could look at these exchanges as an opportunity instead to speak our own truth? A real truth-teller can take as much as they dish-out.

To be clear, there are real bullies in the world. (putting it mildly) That said, a bully is not the same thing as a direct communicator. A bully will use the truth to harm you, humiliate you, or manipulate you, intentionally or out of habit. Their motive is to make you feel bad or make others feel bad about you. Direct communicators are telling you the truth because it needs to be said and they are either not thinking about you at all (and that’s actually okay) or they are trying to help you. (not always okay, but well-intentioned for sure)

It is imperative to know the big difference between a bully and a direct communicator. Otherwise, we will think a direct communicator is trying to hurt or control us while we cheer-on a bully who targets the weakest member of the herd, someone we usually do not resonate with very much for some reason or another. Bullies know this. They don’t pick on well-liked people for a reason. How many times have you taken up the cause of someone you don’t like? Not everyone has the stones for that.

Nonetheless, a direct style is not correct and an indirect style incorrect. Hardly. I hold that everyone must be true to themselves. An indirect style might be “correct” for you, while a direct style feels “correct” for me. Neither is wrong or right as an absolute value across all time and space and people.

The problem comes in when as a direct communicator I make assumptions about what you do not say and when you as an indirect communicator makes assumptions about what I do say.

The naked truth (my favorite kind!) is that no matter what you are talking about, it is utter anxiety-provoking lunacy to try to take ownership of another person’s reactions to our words or our actions. It is also lunacy to expect them to take ownership of our reactions.

That’s what I believe Rumi was getting at 800 years ago. We are each the curator of our actions and reactions. Curate the living daylights out of it! Own it. But know it is yours. Carry your own bags. When someone else tries to get you to carry their bags, do not accept those bags.  Hand them right back with a polite but firm, “I believe these are yours.”

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  © Mccarthystudio | Dreamstime.com

water the fruit trees

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poetry / Rumi / spirituality

How much fun is overthinking? I mean, good times, am I right?

Oh so very not.

I have mentioned a few different ways that anxiety or fear or uncertainty can show up in our lives. However, surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve tackled actual thinking patterns before. What an egregious oversight! (overthought?  no, that doesn’t quite work.  anyway…)

In yoga, we call these unintentional, constant, whirling thought patterns the vrttis. I know what you’re thinking…”Holly, that’s an impossible word to say!” Haha, not really. Just pretend there is an “i” between the “r” and the first “t”, like “vrittis.”

The vrttis are usually translated as “the turnings of the mind.” It is quite something that in Western society we don’t have a word for this. Let’s be real…it should have been us that invented a word for this! It probably should have sounded something like “kajagoogoo” or some other inane 80s band to employ a touch of onomatopoeia.

In truth, I know why we didn’t invent a word for this. In our culture it never goes away! So we think it’s just calling “thinking.”

Wrong.

I recently attended a yoga class with a new teacher. She introduced a lot of complimentary elements beyond a traditional yoga sequence. She stated at the beginning of the session that she hoped we would receive clarity about something by the end. Obviously, she didn’t know what that would be for each of us but something…

As she closed the class she read a quote about how much we are all connected and how much Source (or whatever) wants to reach out and wants us to reach back (totally paraphrasing here).  In that very moment, I had the most amazing feeling wash over me. It was a moment of great clarity.  Fog-clearing, epiphany-inducing, pristine clarity.

I’m sure you won’t be shocked by this but I was reminded of Rumi.

Y’all know he’s my guru of choice, so I put a lot of stock in what he says. I also fight a lot of what he says. Not because I don’t agree but because I’m not ready. Not ready to change. Not ready to give up bad habits. Not ready to work hard. Not ready to work less. Not ready to be free. Whatever. Not ready. Fortunately, he’s pretty patient. (he’s waited 800 years. what’s a few more?)

As she was speaking about this connection to Source, I can’t say I was reminded of a specific poem of Rumi’s, just a general observation that what she was saying in this moment mirrored the truth that he has been pointing to all along.

All I have to do is look for the source inside myself and everything else will fall into place.

I felt so clear about pretty much everything as I walked out and drove away from the studio. I don’t mean I understood the meaning of life and all the secrets of the universe. Hardly. Laughable even. I just mean that I felt so very clear about my little patch of it. More important than that, I was clear in my realization that this feeling will not last. Not because it’s not real. Instead, I knew it would not last because my vrttis would start turning again and I’d forget how clear I was in that moment. (it lasted well into the next day though, I’m happy to report.)

I was right. It didn’t last. My mind started its doubting voices again. (no, I don’t literally hear voices. not time for the funny farm just yet.) However, I was armed with this new knowledge that I wasn’t in my clearest mind.  It was easier to ignore the doubts. Additionally, I knew that when I am not in my clear mind, any attempts I make at reaching for clarity from that space will be like trying to grasp air or water with my bare hands. Completely elusive.

So, what are the things and places and people that bring me clarity? I pay attention to that. For me, those things are yoga, meditation, music, dancing, archery, travel, and writing. For you they might be some the same, some different.

It’s equally important to pay attention to what and who does not bring me clarity but rather confusion. With this level of observation and information, I can make healthier, more authentic, more natural choices.

A few days after this class, I did run across a Rumi quote that speaks to this experience:

“Mad with thirst, he can’t drink from the stream running so close by his face.
He’s like a pearl on the deep bottom, wondering, inside his shell, ‘Where’s the ocean?’

His mental questions form the barrier.
His physical eyesight bandages his knowing.
Self-consciousness plugs his ears.

Stay bewildered in God,
and only that.

Those of you who are scattered, simplify your worrying lives. [!]
There is one righteousness:

Water the fruit trees,
and don’t water the thorns.

Be generous to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous reason-light.”

I see the “fruit trees” as these clear spaces and more accurately the recognition of them as wholly separate from the “thorns”, or the worrying spaces.  It has transformed my experience to be able to realize when I am not clear in my mind or environment.  Of note too is the fact that Rumi does not suggest we cut out the thorns like a canker.  Just don’t water them and make them grow.  We can do that.

So where are your fruit trees?  Have you watered them lately?

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo credit:  Shutterstock/Rosalba Matta Machado

thanks in advance

comments 2
poetry / Rumi / spirituality

“Whatever happens to you, don’t fall in despair.
Even if all the doors are closed, a secret path will be there for you that no one knows.
You can’t see it yet but so many paradises are at the end of this path…
Be grateful!
It is easy to thank after obtaining what you want,
thank before having what you want.”

This sh!t is hard.

Yeah, I said a four-letter word…hard.  Because it is.

The so-called spiritual life is not for the faint of heart.  (you may have noticed that “regular life” isn’t a cake-walk either…)

I’ve been loosely working with gratitude for some time now. That has tightened up a bit lately.  All waters seem to be streaming to this port for me right now.  I’ve touched on gratitude before here on this blog, but what’s different this time is how I’m using it.

I’ve been on a bit of a roller-coaster lately. Seeing family, friends, and places that I have not seen in years. Saying goodbye to someone who has been in my life since I was 5 years old. New adventures. Unexpected expenses. Hidden treasures. Surprises.  Some good, some not-so-good.

Ya know, life.

I’ve weathered a lot of it as well as any one of us would. However, on some days, certain thoughts are a little more persuasive and distracting in unpleasant ways.

I’ve only found one thing that can immediately change the energy of anything I’m dealing with whether it’s anger or sadness or disappointment or confusion…

Gratitude.

I’ve always been one to say thank you. My first words were “thank you.” Not “mama” or “dada.”  Not even “Bosco.” (my first dog)

“Thank you.”

Thanks 🙂 to my grandmother. I spent a lot of time with her, so she seized the opportunity early and taught me to say thank you as my first words.  I had no idea how much that single act would define my life.  She left her mark, probably not even knowing how deep it would root.

Seriously, those who know me well expect that I will thank people for almost anything and everything. It comes out before I’ve even thought about it sometimes.  Hell, I can even turn “thank you” into an insult when properly motivated!  (what Southerner can’t?)  😉

Now I have a new relationship with “thank you.”  This budding relationship is what Rumi is getting at with the above stanza. The idea of being grateful before we receive.

Wwhhaatt…??

Yes, before.

Congratulations! You are perfectly normal if this seems foreign to you. In our culture we are downright so averse to this idea that when someone says “thanks in advance” we take it as a micro-aggression.

“What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Thanks in advance’…they’ve got some nerve thanking me before I’ve even agreed to anything!” Whoa, calm down Tex.

We interpret it as a sense of entitlement, as bossiness, as rudeness, as presumption.

Maybe sometimes it is.

What if sometimes it is not? What if sometimes they really are extending their thanks in advance? Is that so terrible?  I have used this phrase before myself.  Every time that I recall saying it I meant it sincerely.  Given that, I can safely assume that some people really are just trying to thank me in advance for what they know must be putting me out a bit.

That explains why we are averse to being thanked in advance, but what keeps us from thanking others in advance? Is it the fear that we will be seen as entitled or one of my least favorites…the subtle demander. (aka nag)  You know, always nice about it, but kind of quietly insistent. We all know them and we’ve all been them.

It’s definitely a factor in human relationships.  But does any of that apply to how I see my relationship to spirit? Do I really think that the Universe (or whatever) cares how I say anything? Do I really think that any supposed enlightened entity or non-sentient force really gives a hoot for human niceties? That’s absurd when I put it that way.

So, it must be something else.

I think it has more to do with a lack of faith. We don’t thank in advance because we either don’t believe it’s coming at all or we don’t think we deserve it or (and this is the most ridiculous one of all!) we think we’re going to jinx it.

I get it. Guilty. I still sometimes worry about “jinxing” it. But it’s utter shite. (have I mentioned how much I love that phrase?)

The premise of jinxing is that some unknown entity (who exactly?) might overhear us and because they’re a passive-aggressive little punk, is going to deny us this thing for which our heart and soul are reaching.

Let’s break that down.

So we believe in some jerk troll or elf or some such prancing around looking for opportunities to deny our heartfelt wishes all because we dared express them out loud?  The nerve!

But a benevolent force  sitting on the edge of its seat (whatever a seat for such a thing would look like) waiting for us just to whisper even the slightest hint of what sets our soul on fire with light and love so that it can then spin things into motion to bring about that very flame…?  Nope.  Too crazy.

Jackass fairy? Yeah, that seems legit.

Energetic resonance?  Cannot. Go. There.  Even though we know energy exists? Still too crazy!

There is a lot of talk about this sort of thing, commonly called the law of attraction, and it gets a bad rap because some people (like with everything) have tried to a) over-simplify it and b) get rich off of it. We’ll never be rid of these sorts of people. But, like they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day!

It amazes me that in the quatrain at the top of this post, Rumi is essentially talking about this law of attraction almost a full millennium ago. He legitimized this theory for me.  I’d believe almost anything he’d tell me.  (see “absurdity” post for more about that)

And it works.

This thanking before having has worked for me. Really. I’m not talking about my cousin’s brother’s uncle’s friend’s mom.  Me.  It has worked for me.

When (i originally typed “if”…hahaha, i am funny!) something upsets me, I eventually make my way to a higher mind by looking for anything that creates a grateful response in me.

The energy shifts immediately. I soften. I relax. I even laugh. That laughter is the sweetest sound on earth. Anytime I have been going through difficulty, it is always my laughter that brings me back home.

There will be upsets and worries and hard times that come. But there will be laughter coming too. For that, I am grateful.

Thanks in advance!

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock/Hugo Brizard

desire…aversion…allowing.

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Hafiz / poetry / Rumi / spirituality

Desire. Aversion.

Aversion. Desire.

Two sides of the same coin.

We desire people, things, experiences. We are averse to pain, to suffering, and yes, some people make this list too.

Have you ever thought about your efforts to attain freedom from desire as just another form of desire? Have you ever thought of your efforts to attain freedom from aversion as just another form of aversion?

Desire is normal. I would say good even. I believe it can be a wholly holy experience when it’s approached from a place of reverence and authenticity. Desire can be a lot of wonderful things, wishes, hopes, dreams, goals, you name it. It can also be lust, greed, selfishness.

Aversion is normal. It too can be a holy experience. We have all felt our gut telling us not to do something, or not to go somewhere, or not to trust that person and it turned out to be right. Aversion can be intuition, authenticity, ethics. It can also be fear, avoidance, anger.

It’s when we try to live permanently in either state that things get a little dicey.

“When I run after what I think I want,
 my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety.
If I sit in my own place of patience,
 what I need flows to me,
 and without any pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me,
 is looking for me and attracting me.
When it cannot attract me
 any more to go to it,
 it has to come to me.”

Desire and aversion in this one poem.  First Rumi speaks of running after.  (been there, done that.)  Taken too literally as an image of Rumi sitting around on his duff, one could mistakenly think he is advocating paralysis or giving-up as the antidote to desire.  (been there, done that too!)  What I notice however is that he does not say that he is now averse to the thing he was after and no longer wants it, but rather that it can no longer attract him.  He is sitting in his “place of patience.”  He is not sitting in his place of apathy or disdain or miffedoffedness.  (totally a word.)

What is the space between desire and aversion?

I decided that, for me, the most balanced state between these two extremes is allowing.

Allowing crazy things to happen? No. Allowing anything and everything to come into my world? No. Allowing toxic people to harsh my vibe?  Definitely not that.  (i will cut you.)  (not really.)

Allowing is not complacency.

Allowing clears the fog.  We are no longer focused on what we are trying to grasp or what we are trying to reject. Allowing offers respite from the burning energy of chasing and the fiery energy of anger.  Allowing creates a space for the right action, the right words, the right opportunity to reveal itself to us.

Allowing is making choices that are in line with our inner knowing and Self. (big S)  It is seeing what comes. It is choosing actions and goals based on what comes. As I allow, I accept.  That includes allowing desire and aversion to come. If I accept that these too will come, then I am less likely to react without intention. Instead I can observe and respond which enables me to assess whether this really is something it would serve me to chase or from which it’s best to turn away.

I’m recognizing the pendulum that these two forces, desire and aversion, create in our lives and choosing to navigate the arc from a place of being open and receptive.  Allowing is neither beckoning nor pushing.  I can allow, without being yanked around.

I can even be grateful for the adventure.  That said, gratitude is not about putting up with things we don’t like or want.  It’s recognizing and honoring what works and letting the rest fall away.  It’s recognizing and honoring that with the unpleasant comes a gift…clarity.

When I allow, I draw to me that which feels best to me, especially information that enables me to choose what action to take, what dream to chase, which time of day to avoid the interstate.  We sometimes forget when we’re in the middle of a dilemma that what we most need is information.  I get more and better information when I’m allowing than when I try to be a detective.

Allowing lets synchronicity and serendipity work for us. We observe what comes. We feel the gravity of it.  We notice the direction in which it is pulling.  Then we act.

I decided this time instead of Rumi, I would allow (see what I did there?) another genius, Hafiz, to sew this all up.

“Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”

It will come to you.

Allow it to find you.

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock/Bastiaan Schuit

let the light in

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poetry / Rumi / spirituality

“I said: What about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it?

I said: Pain and sorrow?
He said: …Stay with it.

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

I actually started writing something else.  I got a few paragraphs into it. It didn’t feel quite right for no particular reason. I started thinking about writing something else that felt a little better but still couldn’t quite get started on it.

Then, things happened. Horrible things. As a nation and as a world, we are reeling from what happened in Orlando. That goes without saying. I don’t have anything fresh to say about how awful it is. You know for yourself.

As always, I turn to the words of my beloved Rumi when I am dealing with something difficult to bear. This was no different. Mercifully, I didn’t have to go searching for it, it came to me.  Days before even.  At almost every turn. It popped into my head. It showed up in several social media feeds. You name it.  It was everywhere.  (message coming through!)

A few days ago, I was having a particularly difficult up-down day, emotionally speaking. This was prior to the shooting in Orlando. I was feeling generally grumpy and not optimistic, which has not really been the norm for me for some time. So, I sat.  (for those unfamiliar with meditation, practitioners often call it “sitting”) I went to the cushion and I sat.

I’ve spoken before about so-called “epiphanies” during meditation, where an idea or phrase just drops into my mind with no genesis in my own thoughts (or lack thereof when I’m truly lucky). This was one of those lucky times. It had been a cloudy day all day, as has been the case a lot lately.  (I know, I know.  PacNW…rain…blah blah blah.)  I was about 10 to 15 minutes into this meditation when the sun came out and hit my closed eyelids directly through the skylight. My first reaction was to wince.  That was when I heard it:

“Let the light in.”

Now, these are not literal voices, to be clear. So, don’t worry about me just yet. There’ll be plenty of time for that later. 😉

Let the light in.

I realized that I was so focused on what was not going well for me, or appeared not to be going at all, that I was failing to let the light in. I literally winced when the light first hit my eyes. The beautiful sun, coming at me through my lovely skylight, during a serene meditation session, in my new home. The new home I have been wanting for years. The sunshine I crave daily. The serenity that sustains me.

I winced.

Sure it was a natural physiological response. I’m not shaming myself for it. I am observing it though.

Shortly thereafter is when the aforementioned Rumi quote started coming out of the wood-works at me. I even saved one version of it with the caption, “let the light in” to remind myself of that meditation session.

I had no idea what was coming.  I had no idea how much this quote would soon mean to me.

The events in Orlando are unspeakable. More unspeakable than other horrors? No. They don’t need to be more or less. This post is not about what makes it the same or different, or even to get into what causes these things and what doesn’t. To that point I will only say that if we don’t learn to talk to each other and listen to each other and stop listening to the dividers, we’re never going to get anywhere.

I have seen a wide-ranging response to this tragedy. Yes, there have been the crazies. There will always be the crazies. (not using the word clinically.)  I have seen a largely positive reaction, with some anger and outrage thrown in as well. All understandable and generally appropriate. Fitting even.

I have those same feelings of despair and anger and outrage, the same as anyone else.

But I can’t stay there. I just can’t.

If I’m being honest, it doesn’t really seem to serve anyone. Nonetheless, if that is where you find yourself, I won’t turn away from your pain or anger. I can bear witness to it while letting the light in for myself and others.

Is Rumi being trite and saying just rush with both feet through all of those negative feelings toward the light? If you know anything about Rumi, you know he is definitely not advocating that. Is he asking us to be grateful for our wounds, for such tragedies in particular? A closer approximation, but probably not that exactly either.

There are quatrains in which he does offer gratitude when dealing with difficulties, but certainly one as sensitive as Rumi would have known the subtleties that make gratitude appropriate in one case are not so with another, such as this. So no, I don’t think this particular verse is about being grateful for tragedy. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would expect any of us to feel grateful right now. I know I don’t expect that.

What I get out of this is simply that wounds happen. They cannot be avoided. The sorrow they cause cannot be sidestepped. Sooner or later we will face tragedy or disappointment or anger or despair. No matter how grateful we are. It is a facet of life.

I would add I don’t think this is about a lesson either.  More on that later, but the more I learn, listen, and feel, the less I think anything in life is about lessons and more about experiences.  But that’s another post for another day!

What I see this particular poem pointing to is the light that comes in after a tragedy. You know it. You see it.  You’ve probably even been it.  Heck, you’re probably doing it right now.

The wound *is* the place where the light enters us. The wound cracks open our humanity and stops time for a moment. A heart-wrenching, unspeakable, air-sucking vacuum of a moment.  Then a shift happens…

In rush the light-bringers…

The first responders.

The other survivors helping each other.

The people calling 9-1-1.

The dispatchers sending help and calming the callers or giving them instructions to save a life.

The bystanders helping to move people to safety.

The nurses, the doctors, the chaplains, you name it.

Orlando saw blood donor lines miles long in the hot Florida sun and air as thick as soup. (trust me on that.) All within a few short hours.

I know some feel it’s too soon to focus on the light, but I could not disagree more. It’s never too soon for that in my opinion. It’s okay to feel your anger, despair, and pain. However, be sure to look into the eyes of the ones who have come to help. The ones who want to help.

The light is there if you look, really look.

The wound is the place where the light enters you.

Let the light in.

Namaste.

Love and so very much light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock/ Dennis W. Donohue

leap!

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Rumi / spirituality / yoga

Recently, I taught yoga on “leap day,” so I decided to theme the class around leaps of faith. I asked the students to picture an obstacle that has stopped them from doing something. I then gave them pose by pose meditations on facing that barrier. For example, when we folded forward into Uttanasana (fancy word for a forward bend), I had them imagine they were diving headlong into the obstacle. When we lifted half-way for Ardha Uttanasana, I asked them to visualize meeting the obstacle’s gaze followed by bowing deeply again, honoring the obstacle as we refolded into Uttanasana. I won’t give you a full play-by-play, but eventually I asked them to see themselves moving past it, rising up out of it for Tadasana (mountain pose), standing tall in their victory.

It was a good class. A strong class, full of strong warriors. I could tell they really did the work. Their energy shifted before my very eyes.  I, however, was so focused on leading them through this meditation that I didn’t do the work myself. As a new teacher this is a skill that I’m still developing…to be fully present in each class and not worry about what I’m going to do next. I’m assured by my more seasoned sisters and brothers that this is completely normal.  I’ve decided to believe them.

That class got me thinking about leaps of faith and why we see more blocks than bridges related to doing something different or new.  After all, the path always has both stopping points and signs that point the way.  Why do we stare so long at the stop signs?  Heaven knows we barely acknowledge them in the real world.

At any given time we all have something we’re procrastinating on or avoiding. (i’m doing it right now)  Strangely enough, it’s usually something we know we will enjoy or at least we know it will benefit us in some way. So, why is it so hard?

A few days ago the person who moderates the Rumi Facebook page (sorry folks, not Rumi himself as it turns out) had posted about fear and uncertainty. This part of the post succinctly captures, in two lines, the essence of why we procrastinate and stagnate:

“What is fear…?
Non acceptance of uncertainty…”

Simply stated and profoundly true. No surprise there for any of us. We all know that it’s what might go wrong that keeps us from taking the leap. We know it’s the possibility of failure, the fact that we can’t be sure we will succeed, that we stay stuck. I think we can all agree on this.  (hey, that’s something!)

That said, I’d like to unpack this a little more. What if it’s not actually the uncertainty that stops us? After all, we’ve done uncertain things before. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

If one is not careful, it’s easy to assume that Rumi is pinpointing uncertainty. Uncertainty is so big, and so scary, that we roll right past the real issue: non-acceptance. Some might say “same difference” and maybe they’re right. For me, there is a difference. We lock onto the uncertainty, willing it to change or just go away. Our lack of acceptance escapes our attention so we never look at the fact that we just won’t face the facts. Nonetheless, this reality of uncertainty is real, with or without our consent. Reality is super stubborn like that.

The truth is there is no way to turn uncertainty into certainty. It’s impossible. By its very nature the attempt will likely lead to increased anxiety. This sort of flawed thinking is at the very heart of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. (so I’ve heard)  We can drive ourselves and everyone around us crazy in the pursuit of certainty.

The only way forward is to accept the not-knowingness, no matter what. High risk, low risk. Big reward, small reward. In the living room or in Las Vegas.

Before we get too crazy with it though, I am not talking about taking leaps we don’t want to take but someone else wants us to take them. Absolutely not. Never, never, never. I’m also not talking about doing things just because they might look “cool” to others. We never look as cool as we think we do anyway. I’m talking about those whispers from our soul, those nudges from our heart that give us a surge of energy when they grace us with their presence. You know those feelings. The steps leading to them may trigger some nerves, but not the whispers themselves.  They’re full of grace and peace, not anxiety.

That sense of serenity is how you know that particular idea has wings, which is the closest thing you’re going to get to certainty. The full knowledge that once you leap, you will either land where you want or you will learn to fly. Perhaps both.

I ran across a great video by Danielle LaPorte the other day where she handed me a very wise tool for my toolbox.  I use it each time I am about to face a challenge:

“I’ll figure it out.”

Because I will. I’m tenacious, to a fault sometimes. One way or another, I will figure it out. So will you.

It’s time to trust myself. I welcome the fresh energy of change through my actions and my will to evolve. I don’t want chaos anymore than the next person, but change is not chaos. We have to unmarry these two in our minds. Instead of “fear of change,” we must think “fear and change.” They are unrelated even though they are often seen together. Since they appear to get along so well, maybe we can choose to be inspired by that.

This opens the door to lightheartedness. I tell my yoga students all the time to “play” with new poses or old poses that stump them in some way. I know I’ve done a good job when I hear laughter during a very challenging sequence. (my favorite sound!)

Where can we be more playful in our approach to uncertainty? Where can we accept this force of not-knowingness in our lives? It’s going to be with us for the rest of our days. Perhaps it’s time to make a friend of it.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did recently take a leap of my own. Several, in fact. I can’t say I’ve landed yet, but a net has already appeared. (so grateful!) I’m learning to fly and I will land when the time is right.

“…if we accept that uncertainty, it becomes adventure!” -You Know Who

Namaste.

Love and light,
Holly

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock/je-fotodesign